Hoppy

hoppy_474

Though we’re pretty confident when it comes to our beer history these days — or at least the bit between 1963 and now — we’re still very much learning when it comes to tasting beer.

We can’t usually identify specific hop varieties, for example, so we have to make do with spotting big, obvious characteristics* — playing with the Duplo, rather than the Technics.

Though serious tasters apparently consider it rather crude, we still find ‘hoppy’ a useful word, at least when we’re talking to each other. It means, to us, a beer in which the dominant ingredient is hops.

(‘Hoppy and malty’, we agree, is therefore not a helpful tasting note.)

The doodle above is a version of something that we scribbled in notebook over a few beers, as we attempted to understand the various types of hoppy we are capable of perceiving.

STEWED is the one that’s newest to us — until recently, we’d hardly had any beers that had a ton of hops without also having a ton of obvious aroma.

The historical pale ales we tried at the Birmingham Beer Bash tasted strongly of hops without having much aroma at all; Marston’s Old Empire IPA might be another example. Are there others that you can point us towards?

And which beers (ideally readily-available in the UK) do you think best exemplify our other sub-categories?

* How much do we actually want to learn? Maybe not too much more. And aren’t most people who claim to be able to spot this hop or that… bullshitting?

22 thoughts on “Hoppy”

  1. Weed. That would be Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. Skunk in a bottle (as opposed to a skunked bottle).

  2. Oooh, you do love chopping things up. But don’t you get “piney” (or “toilet-duck”, or whatever) that’s a big thing nowadays.

    1. Just Tweeted about that! Sniffed a load of pine needles on the Quantocks earlier this year and their aroma ranged from lemon peel to weed, so we were left feeling it might not be a very useful descriptor for beer.

      Is there a beer you’d say was overwhelmingly ‘piney’, then, rather than fitting into the broad weedy or fruity categories?

      1. I’m sure I’ve had BD’s Hardcore (in the past) that was more toilet-duck than anything else. What’s it like nowadays?

      2. Piney or resinous is definitely a thing, although I’m not sure whether it’s just the intersection of strong “cannabis” hops with “toffee lolly” malt or a distinct thing from the hops alone.

        1. Oh, it’s a thing alright. Usually Simcoe isn’t it? Nice enough when integrated, off-putting if it sticks out?

          1. I don’t really know my hop varieties, but I had the Kernel Pale Ale with Simcoe the other day and that definitely had “pine resin” in spades.

          2. We’ll have to try again, but beers we know have Simcoe in just smell weedy to us.

            Maybe a better term for that whole category, sidestepping this debate, would just be ‘green’?

  3. Jon — Hardcore, we would say, is broadly ‘weedy’. We’ll have to get some pine cleaning products later and give them a good huff.

    Dave — that’s an interesting thought re: the intersection of malt’n’hops. Resinous is another one that’s rather lost on us, BTW — we need to go and hack up some trees.

  4. Nebuchadnezzar by omnipollo is definitely piney. Scandinavian IPA s are usually the ones I would describe as piney

  5. in terms of more
    “stewed” beers i guess you’re looking for ones with a late hop addition but none after flame out/ no dry hopping, i.e., a lot of the stronger “UK style” IPAs, higher ABV, low caramalt, english or noble hops

  6. For me the best descriptor for beers and hops that smell strongly of cannabis is ‘dank’, works better for me than ‘weedy’. If you’ve ever had the chance to break up fresh Columbus hops in your hands you’ll know just how ‘dank’ hops can smell!

    I like that flavour profile flow chart, it would be an ideal way of breaking down flavour profiles in beer to make many beers more supermarket friendly but it could be broken down further. ‘Citrus’ can run the gamut from almost savoury lemon peel flavour (Sorachi Ace) through to bitter orange (Amarillo) and juicy grapefruit (Citra) so is describing a beer as ‘citrusy’ still generalising in the same way as calling a beer ‘hoppy’. At the end of the day I agree with you that describing a beer as hoppy can be useful for my own notes so I can remember the dominant characteristics of the beer (hoppy AND malty being utterly useless.)

    I actually find ‘resinous’ quite useful but more for talking about mouth feel in the same way that you might use ‘sticky’ or ‘oily’ as it’s a really nice sounding word.

    1. You could add as many layers as you liked, down to micro-variations between different types of lemon, if you knew loads about lemon.

      Generally speaking, ‘citrus’ is about as specific as we can get. Sometimes, it’s definitely more lemony, other times sweet tangerine, but a lot of that, we’re sure, is our eyes fooling our brains. (Yellow smell more of lemon, orange ones more of orange…)

      1. I often think you should drink beer in the dark. 90% of tasting notes are simply lists of things that are vaguely the same colour as the beer.

        I swear you could give a panel of tasters identical pints with different colourings, and the descriptions would be totally different.

  7. I find there are three broad characteristic, and depending how hop varieties are blended, you can often pick ’em put:

    – English, which is flowery/lemony/earthy

    – American, which is grapefruit/piney/dank/other tropical

    – German, which is steely mineral-like.

    Of course this is a broad generalization, but I find often I am right in picking them out. For example, recently a flowery new pale ale in our city struck me as definitely English in hopping. It is made easier to pick it out in a place where 95% of the pale ales/IPAs are APA in style. A visiting brewer sitting in the table next overheard me, he said, I’ll tell you if you are right. He ordered the same beer, and I said, let it warm and decarbonate it a bit to be able to tell. He took a sip anyway and said, I don’t need to do that, the varieties are definitely English, probably Fuggle and Golding.

    A lot of pale ale had no aroma traditionally and porter in particular was not aromatic except for some export stout which was dry-hopped. But some pale ale did have a burst of hop flavour, from dry-hopping again.

    Gary

  8. I think you “stewed” is a number of things. Yes, black tea but also twiggy and hedge and bitter weeds, what I think of the sensation of driving a lawn mower into a ditch. Your “weed” is better dank. Plus reverse them left to right and add a horizontal axis that reflects time in the boil. Plus you could add “natural” and “hybrid” to fruit to reflect the facile designer hop flavour that serve as gateway flavours to real beer. Then… how does any of this reflect actual skilled brewing in which flavour notes from the yeast, water and malt are drawn together with the hops to create a new beer taste? I blame single varietal wines…

  9. I’d split it by aroma/flavour/bitterness and branch out from there. Bitterness to me has a lot of variation amongst the different hops.

    Chinook is a good hop for ‘piney’, Simcoe aroma to me is more tropical fruit verging towards cat piss!

  10. I know nothing about this, but if I have a beer (like Fuller’s Wild River, which I drank last night) that’s tobacco-smoky in aroma, orange-peel buzzy on the lips, peach-fruity in the body and charcoal-bitter on the finish, isn’t that all ‘hoppy’? In other words, not only different flavours but different kinds of flavour?

  11. Last September, when we were compiling ingredients for our 1901 Albany Ale recreation, I was given a 5 pound plastic bag of whole leaf, Central New York-grown heritage hops, of the Cluster variety (perhaps Pompei or Humphrey). For those who don’t know, a 5 pound bag of whole leaf hops is about the size of a small boulder, like you might see as landscaping in front of someone’s house. In other words, a good amount. I transported said bag home in the backseat of my car, nestled safely in my—then—three-year-olds car seat. Perhaps, a ten or fifteen minute drive, at most. My car smelled like wildflowers and cat piss for the next three days. While that might sound bad, I have to say the aroma wasn’t all that unpleasant!

Comments are closed.